There are so many layers of intrigue to this game. How many scholarship players will Florida actually field? They say the have 53, but...who are the 53? And how does this depleted roster perform with limited practice and a possible overhaul of the two-deep?
On the Missouri side: What kind of game does Missouri play? We’ve seen big-play-haymakers against LSU and and a slow-grind against Kentucky: which style does Drinkwitz go with this week?
Missouri has a history of beating Florida out of nowhere and is a surprising 2-2 all-time in The Swamp. Win this one and you can start thinking of the loftiest goals possible. But first, let’s take a look at the key matchups for the game.
Missouri’s Key Stats vs. Florida’s Offense
Win on Third Down
Bad news, all: Florida’s offense is really freakin’ good. 6th in SP+, to be exact. 6th in success rate, 20th in explosiveness, 22nd in rushing, 5th in passing. Dan Mullen has always been able to maximize the offensive side of the ball for his teams and this year, so far, is no different. The Kyles, Trask (QB) and Pitts (TE), are lethal, with Trask already at 996 yards over three games and Pitts at 274 yards and 7 touchdowns on 26 targets and 17 catches. Kadarius Toney is a RB/WR combo but has done most of damage as a receiver, earning 24 targets, 18 catches, 237 yards and 4 touchdowns. Their offensive line doesn’t give up run stuffs or sacks and opens 4-yard holes 57% of the time. They don’t run often but they can do anything they want to do successfully.
So how does Missouri stop it? Well...there’s only a handful of things that they’re not super great at so the Tigers are going to have to exploit those weaknesses as frequently as possible. And, for all of their ability to move the ball, Florida is averaging 8.8 yards-to-go on 3rd downs. They’re still excellent at converting 3rd-downs, mind you, but the Missouri defense has been pretty good at stopping 3rd downs as well: 17th in 3rd-and-medium, 48th in 3rd-and-long. So if Missouri performs decently in 3rd-and-long, and Florida averages a 3rd-and-long, then they need to make sure to take advantage of those opportunities. Florida has only converted six 3rd downs every game: 6-10 against Ole Miss, 6-17 against South Carolina, and 6-9 in the loss to Texas A&M. Missouri opponents are a combined 17-46 on 3rd-downs for the year - and 2-19 in the past two games - so Missouri will need to keep that success up to have a chance at slowing down the Gators. If Missouri keeps Florida under 45% conversion on 3rd-downs, the Tigers will have a chance.
The best way to keep a dynamic offense from scoring is to take away their ability to generate 1st downs. Another great tactic is to turn them over...something that Missouri has not done all that much of this year.
Florida threw one interception against Ole Miss, had a fumble and interception against South Carolina, and fumbled once against A&M, so they’ll definitely give their opponent a chance. Missouri has forced - and recovered - two fumbles, but that’s it. The defense will have to help themselves out and force at least two turnovers to help their offense keep up.
Missouri’s Key Stats vs. Florida’s Defense
Don’t get this screwed up: Florida’s defense is really good— 26th in SP+ to be exact. But WOW do they have a massive weakness: opposing offenses are incredibly efficient against them on the ground. In fact, Florida opponents have a 55.8% success rate running the ball for the year. Think about that: Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Texas A&M were able to get 50% of the yardage needed on 1st down, 70% of yardage needed on 2nd down, and all the yards needed on 3rd- and 4th-down over half the time! To that into context, against Missouri the Tennessee running game had a 53% success rate. So, essentially, all of Florida’s opposing offenses turn into the Volunteer running attack.
Enter Larry Rountree III: we just saw him run 37 times against a tough Kentucky front. He wasn’t super successful, mind you, but Kentucky excels at stopping that sort of play. If Missouri sticks to a ground-and-pound game plan, then the Gators will give up that stuff in order to stop any and all big plays from getting behind them.
Look for the Tiger ground game to have a 50% success rate on the ground with a 45% opportunity rate; if they’re not doing that then the ground game probably isn’t delivering as they need to.
Here’s the other massive weakness for the Gator defense: Todd Grantham’s boys are allowing a 52.6% success rate on 2nd-and-8+ and 3rd/4th-and-5+, They don’t allow big plays, mind you, but the offense can still move on them.
Missouri, on the flip side, is 33rd in the country in success rate on passing downs, reliably getting it done on both the ground and through the air. Hence, another good opportunity to take advantage of.
Ideally, Missouri just grinds their way down the field and stays out of situations where the Gators send the blitz, but if they do run into passing downs, they need to have a 40% success rate or better to maintain possessions and create some scoring opportunities.
Finish your dang drives
Missouri dominated time of possession and nearly tripled-up Kentucky on total plays, but still only generated five scoring opportunities in their ten possessions.
Over their past three games, the Florida offense is averaging ten possessions per game, while Missouri is averaging 10.8 possessions. So let’s just assume it’ll be ten possessions for both teams.
Florida is averaging 6.05 points per scoring opportunity while Missouri is averaging 4.08. See the problem here?
For example: if both sides get ten possessions and each team hits their season-average on points per opportunity, Missouri would need to miraculously generate six opportunities to Florida’s (improbable) four, in order to win 24.48-24.2. That’s probably not going to happen.
Missouri will need to have more than 5 scoring opportunities and generate more than 4 points per opportunity to have a prayer in keeping up with the Gators. Both of those would exceed Missouri’s season averages, so hopefully, the defense is killer and the offense can exceed averages.
As of Monday, Florida is a 13-point favorite. Bill C. says Florida has an 87% win probability with an expected score of 36(ish)-17(ish). And, yeah, if this was Florida at full strength, I totally buy into it.
The thing is, however - and something that I haven’t discussed - that Florida will only be fielding a 53-man scholarship roster and are coming off of a COVID-fueled Bye Week and a lack of practice. Florida’s roster is way more talented than Missouri’s, but will be coming in at a massive disadvantage when it comes to preparation.
Maybe their army of analysts have used this time to scheme up some answers to everything Missouri has shown on tape. Maybe their pure talent will have them win the game despite all their off-field issues. But Missouri has won two games in a row playing two different types of games and are playing some great ball. I think Missouri can cover but will still need to play way above their averages to steal another win in The Swamp.